Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Frost

BREMERTON, Wash. – Approximately 2,300 Sailors aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) received a mandatory annual flu vaccination, Oct. 21.

The vaccination is essential for the Stennis crew because they live in extremely close quarters to each other on the ship, according to Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Karin Harnishfeger, leading chief petty officer of Stennis’ preventative medicine.

Now that Stennis is preparing for it’s first underway since entering Docking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) maintenance period in June 2013 the immunizations are even more crucial.

“The illness would run amuck through the crew in no time without the vaccination,” said Harnishfeger. “Living spaces, offices and chow lines puts every Sailor on the ship at risk of coming in contact with the flu virus. We are all within three feet of each other at any given time.”

The flu is transferred through water droplets in the air, which travel on average three feet.

Hundreds of virus strains exist, but the injection protects the crew against the five most harmful strains. Data from the previous year is used to recognize and decide which strains are going to be the most damaging and require immunization.

“People die or are hospitalized from the flu every year,” said Harnishfeger. “By immunizing the crew, it is estimated hundreds of hours of sick time is prevented, as well as protecting our Sailors from the hardship of becoming ill and spreading it to their families.”

Delivering the shot in a mass exercise not only makes it more convenient for Sailors and easier for the medical staff, it also makes it possible to ensure the injections are performed within 72-hours of medical receiving the vaccinations, in compliance with Navy regulations.

“It’s something we have to do to stay healthy, and it’s good that the Navy looks out for our health,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) Airman Vincent Belus, from Brentwood, Calif.

Stennis is currently undergoing a Docking Planned Incremental Availability maintenance period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility.

For more news from USS John C. Stennis visit and